The mining firm has prioritised optimisation and a well-coordinated workforce to increase efficiency and productivity

Sentinel Mine Operations Manager Rees Magrath.

KALUMBILA, ZAMBIA – The mining sector continues to play a significant role in developing the Zambian economy, despite the global and local socio-economic challenges caused by unstable commodity prices and the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, for the mining firms to remain productive, profitable and withstand both internal and external shocks the sector has been facing, careful planning and management remain key to the survival of the some of the major contributors to the nation’s economy.

First Quantum Minerals Sentinel Mine in Kalumbila has prioritised optimisation and ensuring it has a well-coordinated workforce, which it believes is fundamental to increasing efficiency, productivity and the overall success of any business.

“It takes a combination of engineering application, business astuteness, optimisation and then your over-arching ability to challenge your status quo. We look at one’s talents; one’s competencies; one’s qualifications, and ensure that we get the right fit for that individual to not only enjoy their work but contribute positively to our end goal, explained Sentinel Mine Operations Manager Rees Magrath.

“Our skills diversity ranges from equipment operators, various engineers, electrical/mechanical technicians, dispatchers, safety practitioners and all of in between. And with over 1,300 people in the Mining Operations team, and over 62 different job roles, we ensure that we set up an individual for success.

Whether it be through our training and development at the start of one’s career or where we identify deficiencies and set up developmental programmes to ensure that our employees achieve the best they can and provide a valuable contribution to the company,” he added.

Mr Magrath explained that for a business to be effective, its management should have the ability to understand the importance of teamwork and that the company should always ensure it settles staff disputes while making each employee feel he or she is a key player in the operation and success of the company.

“This is something that we focus on daily and continue to drive our teams to towards excellence. The challenging environment in regards to recent commodity prices, the obvious COVID-19 factor, and our remote site situation, can be overcome with the purpose that the teams have. We set high expectations for ourselves and we are energized by the fact that there are equally high objectives set for us however we are more than ready and willing to meet these and show further improvement on our mine site,” he continued.

FQM believes that a responsible company promotes healthy relationships among employees and the communities where it operates, but that the challenge lies in finding the right balance between respecting and accommodating the difference in cultural and religious beliefs, while promoting co-existence among the many nationalities the company has employed.

By investing in the well-being of its employees and the communities where they live, the company can record worthwhile returns. A well-coordinated and productive workforce helps companies achieve their set goals and objectives.

“To ensure that we have a stable mining environment, the planning, scheduling and geology teams have a very key role to play thereby enabling us to set up a very comprehensive and practical plan which, if executed to the correct standard, yields the expectations that we set out for at the beginning of each quarter and each year.

Another notable success story for us has been in the company’s equipment reliability processes. Underpinning production is the equipment used to achieve strong production volumes. The company has been moving towards a more preventive means of maintenance; identifying defects as they present themselves and addressing them so the availability of the equipment is linked to strong reliability thus giving confidence and ability to the production teams to achieve their targets.

Mr Magrath further said there is a sense of ownership among employees who realize that mining is more than just the operation that brings food to the table but also is what allows them to set up a legacy for the future.

“The sense of ownership brings about a sense of purpose and urgency that we see in our teams and that’s something that makes a big difference in ensuring we achieve our targets. We are seeing equal performance improvements in our safety focus, environmental stewardship and our general working standards and conditions.

“We can’t underestimate the strength of teamwork to operate a mine site like this that has 1,300 people just in the Mining department alone and all with their part to play in the bigger picture. Operating independently doesn’t work at all. Nothing gets done by one person or one team alone so the element of teamwork has been a very big success factor for us” he said.

The company’s focus has been on empowering its people through training and education. Being a multinational company, FQM believes despite the many nationalities among its staff, establishing the right work culture and ethics leads to a happier workforce resulting in a successful organisation.

“At Kalumbila we have a very positive outlook, and with a continued focus on improving on the basics and constantly challenging the status quo, we have a good team to push us into the future with improved performances from where we are now,” he said.

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